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Tobacco so nearly became a reality for South African smokers in lockdown level 3. Actually, there’s no smoke without fire. And the smoke blown up by the average South African smoker today, seems frustratingly free of legal tobacco. Mostly the ban adds up to hot air and raises a lot of questions.
Tobacco ban ties into political complexities
An article by Vanessa Burger in The Daily Maverick reminds us of the exposé Tobacco Wars. Penned by former South African Revenue Service (SARS) group executive Johann van Loggerenberg, he traced the complex and dangerous threads of corruption that illegal cigarettes pose to South Africa’s economy. The names that crop up include that of our former president and his family. Small wonder then that Dr. Nkososana Dhlamini Zuma’s 2017 campaign for presidency received backing from the notorious Mr. Mazzotti.
Mr. Mazzotti, no stranger to the courts of South Africa, as recently as December 2019 had assets seized by South African Revenue Services for tax evasion. Increasingly, the double bill act of Minister Dhlamini Zuma’s ban on legal cigarette sales results in feeding money into the illegal trade. The new ban gets being questioned by South Africans, whether they smoke or not. In fact, who stands to gains from it while the tax department loses out?
Over half a million smokers petitioned for the lifting of the ban
Smokers, initially fobbed off by the mention of a petition of two thousand signatures requesting the retainment of the ban, grew angry. A laughable statement, given that over 500,000 smokers subsequently petitioned the lifting of the ban.
As reported in The Lowvelder, Tax Justice South Africa expressed their frustrations and puzzlement at the ongoing ban. Yusaf Abrahmajee, one of the directors, suggests that the continued ban’s equivalent to “writing a blank check for the criminals.” The estimated loss of revenue to the country adds up and reaches figures in the multi-millions.
Mr. Mboweni, a lone voice of reason in South Africa
The economy cannot afford the loss of billions or even millions of rands. The Minister of Finance, Mr. Mboweni constantly points out that fact. However, he stands alone in voicing sanity in the midst of this madness. Why? Because he stated that he holds no interest in remaining a politician and therefore holds no further agenda. What then, is the agenda? For 11 million smokers it is clear that one exists.
The ongoing tobacco ban undoubtedly feeds crime and robs South African’s of precious tax revenue. It is indefensible. And, it raises the spectre of the Zuma decade of corrupt officialdom doing whatever they can to ensure they have the finances to regain their stifling and shameful grip on South Africa.
Smokers smoke poor quality and expensive cigarettes
Smokers still smoke as evidenced by the car guards outside the local grocery store who no longer beg for five rands for watching cars. Instead, they offer one cigarette for R20.00. Wake up and smell the smoke Mr. President.
What are your feelings on the tobacco ban in level 3 during COVID-19 in South Africa? Is it in place out of genuine concern for the health of the nation? Or, does it represent political ambitions of a more sinister nature? Sound off in the comments below.
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